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Pregnant JFK worker among 6 claiming unsafe conditions at airline contractor

Rep. Adriano Espaillat, left, Hacheler Cyrille, center, and

Rep. Adriano Espaillat, left, Hacheler Cyrille, center, and Assemb. Dick Gottfried attend a news conference Tuesday to shed light on unfair treatment of workers. Photo Credit: Marcus Santos

When Hacheler Cyrille, a worker at Kennedy Airport, became pregnant and asked to be removed from her job as a wheelchair agent to something less strenuous, she said she was reassigned to handling heavy baggage. Then, she says, she was injured on May 8 when she fell onto a conveyor belt while trying to unlodge a large piece of luggage.

The belt stopped short of pushing her into a machine that scans for explosives. But she was jostled side to side as she screamed for help, ultimately escaping covered in bruises and contusions. She was taken to a nearby hospital. 

“It was crazy, it was noisy so nobody could hear me. Thank God I didn’t go to the worst part and God saved my life. I could’ve been dead” the expectant mother, 31, recalled at a news conference hosted by union 32BJ SEIU Tuesday morning on the steps of City Hall.

Cyrille is one of six workers that union reps say are the subject of a 32BJ complaint filed Sept. 17 with the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, citing unsafe conditions at a company called Eulen America — the contractor used by American Airlines at JFK. The union did not provide amNewYork with a copy of the complaint because of privacy concerns but said it condemns Eulen for failing to notify OSHA about Cyrille's accident. 

Cyrille also claims that her request for a chair, so she could sit on the job, was not accommodated and that she has not been allowed back to work since the conveyor belt incident. She said she has not received a paycheck since May, forcing her to dip into savings set aside for her 6-year-old son’s college tuition.

She filed a pregnancy discrimination complaint against Eulen with the New York City Commission on Human Rights in July, she said.

“It’s very simple: Eulen America failed to accommodate Hacheler’s pregnancy,” said 32BJ SEIU vice president Shirley Aldebol, who argued Cyrille should receive back pay for the months of work she has been denied and should receive compensation for her physical and emotional ordeal.

“They failed to meaningfully accommodate her pregnancy by placing her in a more physically demanding and stressful job; they failed to give her a chair when she asked for one even though she had a doctor’s note saying she should have one. The result of their failure put Hacheler and her pregnancy in danger.”

This is just the latest in a series of complaints made about Eulen’s treatment of workers. The company has been accused of mistreating JFK workers, forcing them to use or lose sick days, and forcing workers at Miami International Airport of working long hours without breaks without reliable access to water — all claims the company has dismissed as false.

When reached for comment by amNewYork, Eulen America declined to address the claims by Cyrille and 32BJ SEIU, instead providing a statement from its CEO contending that the company complies with the law and works to address employee concerns.

“Eulen America workers are the heart and soul of our operation,” reads the statement from CEO Xavi Rabell. “When an employee discloses a medical condition to us that requires special accommodation, we comply with all federal, state, and local laws. Our Eulen America Management and Human Resources teams are available around the clock to address any employee concerns.”

Cyrille, who is expecting to give birth in just a few weeks, said she is trying not to let the stress of the situation overwhelm her and complicate the pregnancy.

“I don’t want to get mad, I don’t want to get angry, because I want to have a safe delivery,” she said.

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